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Biosolids-Amended Soils: Part I. Effect of Biosolids Application on Soil Quality and Ecotoxicity

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Abstract:

Investigations of potential risk from biosolids generally indicate that land application does not threaten human or ecosystem health, but questions continue to arise concerning the environmental effects of this practice. This research project was initiated to evaluate ecotoxicity resulting from the amendment of soils with biosolids from municipal wastewater treatment plants. Toxicity was evaluated using standard tests, including earthworm mortality, growth, and reproduction; seedling germination and root elongation; microbial respiration; and nematode mortality and reproduction. Nineteen municipal wastewater treatment plants were identified to participate in an initial screening of toxicity, and five were chosen for a more detailed evaluation. In addition, two soils with historically high applications of high-metal biosolids were evaluated. Contaminants examined were zinc, copper, nickel, chromium, arsenic, cadmium, lead, and coplanar polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Single applications had no effect on soil metal concentrations. Coplanar PCBs were not detectable in any of the soils or biosolids. All target organisms were sensitive to reference toxicants. Limited toxicity was observed in a small number of the amended soils, but no patterns emerged. Approximately one-half of the negative effects of biosolids on bioindicators could be attributed to routine properties, such as slight depression of pH and/or elevated salinity. None of the accumulated metal concentrations were excessive, and most would not be considered elevated. These observations suggest that current regulations for application of biosolids to soils are providing adequate ecosystem protection.

Keywords: biosolids; ecotoxicity; heavy metals; land application; sludge; soil; wastewater

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2175/106143005X86637

Publication date: November 1, 2006

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  • Water Environment Research® (WER®) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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